Veteran Symposium draws participants from around the country
About 100 people from the around the country gathered at the Seelbach Hotel in downtown Louisville Monday and Tuesday to share ideas about how to better serve veteran students on college campuses.
The University of Louisville hosted the event, Veteran Symposium for Higher Education, to encourage the exchange of best practices on how colleges and universities can become more veteran-friendly.
"People are here because they want to improve services to veterans on their campuses," said Tom Jackson, UofL’s vice president of student affairs. "We’re all trying to create an atmosphere in which we do better and try harder to make veterans feel at home."
Jackson's division, along with Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges and the ACPA - College Student Educators International, sponsored the event.
The symposium comes as UofL is boosting its own efforts to be veteran-friendly. Last fall, the university created an Office of Military and Veteran Student Services to function as a “one-stop shop” for its more than 700 student veterans. Two professional staff members and six students staff the office, which works closely with the Veterans Administration and other organizations that serve veterans.
UofL’s Division of Student Affairs also makes posters available to faculty and staff to designate their workspaces as veteran-friendly.
Sessions at the symposium focused on a wide variety of veteran-related topics, including the needs of women and disabled veterans, posttraumatic stress disorder, how to enhance veteran student groups and an update on the GI Bill.
Presenters included representatives from UofL, Arkansas State University, Cleveland State University and Indiana University, the American Council on Education, One Freedom and Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges.
Throughout the conference, participants scribbled notes on what ideas they could take back to their own universities and possibly implement.
Dave Merriss, chair of the Veterans Advocacy Committee at Northern Kentucky University, said he was impressed with the first conference last year and decided to attend again this year. Near the symposium's end, he said he'd already picked up some ideas he could take back and explore with his committee.
The symposium allows people who have the same mission – from all over the country- to share ideas that will "help veterans make a smooth transition (to college)," he said.
Mona Hicks, dean of students at the University of North Texas, also attended for the second year. She helped established a veterans center on her campus last August.
"I've collected a legal pad full of ideas," she said.
She said veteran students are an asset to any college, bringing leadership skills and a sense of civic duty.
"They add value to the community they're in," Hicks said.